Morbid Stuff, by the Canadian punk band PUP, is a fitting name for the third album by the group, a casual understatement for a bleak worldview. Like the name suggests, the album mixes tone and lyrics to deliver more than might first appear from an uncaring glance. Throughout the album, the alternation between individual and communal vocals gives a call and response feeling to the sound. Driven by distorted guitars, raw vocals, and catchy choruses, it dives into feelings of loneliness, disinterest, regret, and bitterness. Fluctuating between sarcasm and brutal honesty, Morbid Stuff is perceptive and unapologetic about the way things are.
The album sounds original and mostly fresh. Driven by fast drumming, aggressive distortion, and on-point vocals, Morbid Stuff has a distinct PUP sound that is unlike the average punk band. It starts off strong with the song “Morbid Stuff” and tries to carry the energy throughout the album. Many of the songs are catchy with simple choruses that are easy to pick up. The vocals are emphasized by the drums behind them bringing the listener in and making the message clear. Through the use of clever vocal styles, the songs seem to declare their purpose as a kind of anthem inviting the listener to sing along and share in the feeling.
As a whole, Morbid Stuff is a depressing album. The catchy anthem found throughout many of the songs is one of personal problems. Problems lie behind charming sounding phrases and music. It is only on reflection that the disturbed nature of the lyrics is apparent. The anthem focuses on the problems we endure rather than any solutions. There seems to be no hope for the band nor the listener that any of the morbid stuff will improve. The album ends with the song “City” which offers the best hope of the album only to instead shirk responsibility of any of the problems. “City” doesn’t quite fit in with the sonic narrative of the album and makes for a jarring ending to the album. Starting slow and ending with the characteristic, aggressive punk sound, “City” passes the responsibility of the problems to the overbearing city around us. Without agency for one’s situation, the only course of action left for anyone is to commiserate over all the morbid stuff they feel.
Morbid Stuff has many strong songs that are enjoyable to listen to. “Morbid Stuff,” “Kids,” “See You At Your Funeral,” “Sibling Rivalry,” and “Full Blown Meltdown” drive you forward and remind you how punk music can sound so good. They are catchy with an aggressive sound. Despite the strength of many of the songs, the album is a difficult listen. The sum of the album is less than the parts. Dragged down by tonal changes in songs like “Scorpion Hill,” “Closure,” and “City,” the album never seems to end, and not in a good way. The short songs sound long and listening to the album becomes tiring. The heavy themes of the album weigh time down and create a disjointed sound between several of the songs within Morbid Stuff. “City” as the last song sticks out with a different sound and style while doing little to resolve the album. The album leaves you feeling unsatisfied and uncertain. Much of the album is spent exploring a bleak reality without purpose, and a listener can expect to be dragged down as well.